Missouri Executive Order 44

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Lilburn Boggs, who issued Missouri Executive Order 44, the so-called "Extermination Order".

Missouri Executive Order 44, also known as the Extermination Order in Latter Day Saint history,[1][2] was an executive order issued on October 27, 1838 by the governor of Missouri, Lilburn Boggs. It was issued in the aftermath of the Battle of Crooked River, a clash between Mormons and a unit of the Missouri State Guard in northern Ray County, Missouri, during the 1838 Mormon War. Claiming that the Mormons had committed "open and avowed defiance of the laws", and had "made war upon the people of this State," Boggs directed that "the Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the State if necessary for the public peace—their outrages are beyond all description".[2]

Executive Order 44 is often referred to as the "Mormon Extermination Order". Boggs' missive led directly or indirectly to several Mormon deaths: the militia and other state authorities it as a pretext to expel the Mormons from their lands in the state, and force them to migrate to Illinois. This forced expulsion in difficult, wintry conditions posed a substantial threat to the health and safety of the affected Mormons, and an unknown number died from hardship and exposure. Furthermore, a group of men and boys were killed by Livingston County militia in the Haun's Mill massacre three days after the order was issued.

After the initial attack on Haun's Mill, several of those who had been wounded or had surrendered were shot dead. Members of the militia entered the blacksmith shop and found ten-year-old Sardius Smith, eight-year old Alma Smith, and nine-year-old Charles Merrick hiding under the blacksmith's bellows. William Reynolds put his musket against Sardius's skull and blew off the top of his head, killing him.[3] Reynolds later explained, "Nits will make lice, and if he had lived he would have become a Mormon."[4] Alma and Charles were also shot; Alma survived but Charles did not. Although participants in the massacre boasted of their acts for years, none of the Missouri attackers were ever brought to trial,[5] and the Latter Day Saints' efforts at receiving justice in the Missouri courts failed.

Mormons did not begin to return to Missouri until 25 years later, when they found a more welcoming environment and were able to establish homes there once more. In 1976, citing the unconstitutional nature of Boggs' directive, Missouri Governor Kit Bond formally rescinded it.[6]


Main article: Mormon War (1838)

Executive Order 44 was issued by Governor Lilburn Boggs of Missouri during the 1838 Mormon War, which had been caused by friction between the Mormons and their neighbors, largely due to tensions resulting from the growing economic and electoral power of the Mormon community, and the Mormons' vocal opposition to slavery.[1][7] The war ended with the expulsion of almost all Mormons from the state of Missouri.[8][9] The Mormons had been given a county of their own to settle in after their expulsion from Jackson County in 1833, but the increasing influx of new Mormon converts moving to northwestern Missouri led them to begin settling in adjacent counties. This provoked the wrath of other settlers, who had operated under the assumption that the Mormons would remain confined to Caldwell County.[10]

On the fourth of July in 1838, Mormon leader Sidney Rigdon delivered an oration in Far West, the county seat of Caldwell County. While not wishing or intending to start any trouble with his non-Mormon neighbors, Rigdon wanted to make clear that the Mormons would meet any further attacks on them—such as had occurred in Jackson County during the summer and fall of 1833—with force:

Far from settling tensions, Rigdon's oration had the opposite effect: it terrified and inflamed the residents of surrounding counties. By the Fall of that same year these tensions escalated into open conflict, culminating in the looting and burning of several Mormon farms and homes, the sacking and burning of Gallatin by Mormon "Danites", and the taking of Mormon hostages by a militia unit commanded by Cpt. Samuel Bogart, operating in northern Ray County (to the south of Caldwell). When Mormon militia from the town of Far West moved south to the militia camp on the Crooked River to rescue their co-religionists, the resulting battle aroused considerable terror throughout the western part of the state. Lurid rumors of a planned full-scale Mormon invasion of Missouri had run rampant throughout the summer, and these only increased as reports of this "Battle of Crooked River" reached the capital at Jefferson City, with spurious accounts of Mormons allegedly slaughtering Bogart's militia company, including those who had surrendered.[12] Further dispatches spoke of an impending Mormon attack on Richmond, county seat of Ray County, though in fact no such attack was ever contemplated.[13] It was in this environment of fear and misinformation that Boggs chose to act.

Boggs issued Executive Order #44 to General John Clark, whom he had appointed to head up the state militia forces being assembled to reinstate citizens of Daviess County (north of Caldwell) who had been allegedly driven from their homes by renegade Mormons. Having heard lurid reports of alleged Mormon depredations on the Crooked River, Boggs directed Clark to change his mission to one of direct military operations against the Mormons themselves.[14][15][16]

The original handwritten "Extermination Order", issued by Governor Lilburn Boggs in October 1838.

Text of the Order[edit]

Boggs' Missouri Executive Order Number 44, read as follows:

Aftermath and rescission[edit]

Although the Extermination Order technically became inoperative with an end to the state of war and the surrender of Mormon leaders at Far West on November 1, it continued to dignify the forced removal of the Mormons by unauthorized citizens and renegade militia units. The Mormons in Caldwell County had been forced, as part of their surrender agreement, to sign over all of their property to pay the expenses of the campaign against them; although this act was later held unlawful,[18] the Mormons were still forcibly ejected from their homes—often at gunpoint—and forced to leave Missouri with only what they could carry. Although Boggs belatedly ordered a militia unit under Colonel Sterling Price (later to achieve fame as a Confederate Civil War general) to northern Missouri to stop ongoing depredations against the Mormons, he refused to repeal Order #44.[19] The Missouri legislature deferred discussion of an appeal by Mormon leaders to rescind the decree, and nearly all Latter Day Saints—more than 10,000 altogether—had been driven from the state by the spring of 1839.

Boggs himself was excoriated in certain portions of the Missouri press, as well as those of neighboring states, for his action in issuing this order.[20] General David Atchison, a prominent non-Mormon legislator and militia general from western Missouri who had refused to take part in operations against the Mormons, demanded that the Legislature formally state its opinion of Boggs' order, for "he would not live in any state, where such authority was given".[21] Although his proposal and similar ones by others went down to defeat, Boggs himself saw his once-promising political career destroyed as a result of the Mormon War (and especially due to his "extermination order"), to the point that by the time the next election came around, even his own party (the Democratic Party) was reluctant to be associated with him.[22] After surviving an assassination attempt in 1842, Boggs ultimately emigrated to California, where he died in relative obscurity in the Napa Valley in 1860.[23]

Boggs' extermination order, long unenforced and forgotten by nearly everyone outside the Latter Day Saint community, was formally rescinded by Governor Christopher S. Bond on June 25, 1976, 137 years after being signed. In late 1975, President Lyman F. Edwards of the Far West stake of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, now known as the Community of Christ, invited Bond to participate in the stake's annual conference as a good-will gesture for the United States Bicentennial.[24] As part of his address at that conference, Bond presented the following Executive Order:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b DeVoto 2000, pp. 84–85
  2. ^ a b Greene 1839, p. 8
  3. ^ "Part III: Individual Affidavits from the National Archives (M–Z)," in Mormon Redress Petitions: Documents of the 1833–1838 Missouri Conflict, ed Clark V. Johnson (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1992), 493–559.
  4. ^ Andrew Jenson, Historical Record, Dec. 1888, 673.
  5. ^ History of the Church, Vol. III, Jul. 1139, 182–186.
  6. ^ Whitman, Dale A.. "Extermination Order". LDSFAQ. BYU Studies. Archived from the original on 2006-10-20. Retrieved 2007-02-04. 
  7. ^ LeSueur 1987, p. 3
  8. ^ Hartley 2001, pp. 20–23
  9. ^ Anderson 1994, pp. 27–43
  10. ^ Alexander W. Doniphan, quote.
  11. ^ Rigdon's July 4th oration
  12. ^ LeSueur, pp. 143–44.
  13. ^ LeSueur, p. 150.
  14. ^ Allen & Leonard 1992, pp. 136–138
  15. ^ Quinn 1994, p. 100
  16. ^ Office of the Secretary of State of Missouri 1841, pp. 50–63
  17. ^ Greene 1839, p. 26
  18. ^ LeSueur, p. 237.
  19. ^ LeSueur, pp. 232–33.
  20. ^ LeSueur, pp. 225, 229, 237–38.
  21. ^ LeSueur, p. 226.
  22. ^ LeSueur, pp. 258–59.
  23. ^ LeSueur, p. 259.
  24. ^ "The Extermination Order and How it was Rescinded". John Whitmer Historical Association. 
  25. ^ "Governor Bond's Rescission order". The Missouri Mormon War collection. Missouri State Archives. 


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Mormon War Letters, the battle correspondence leading up to, and including, the Extermination Order - presented by LDS historian Mel Tungate.
  • The Missouri Mormon War Executive Orders include both the original Executive Order 44 and the rescinding order as PDFs - presented by the Missouri Secretary of State.